Glass

A Glowing Lineage: Brilliant Cut Glass

2019_044a-bDI6editedCreamer and Sugar Bowl with Masonic Symbols, 1876-1917, USA. Gift of Vikki Sturdivant, 2019.044a-b.

The sugar bowl and creamer pictured here are among the more recent gifts to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection. The owner of this charming cut glass set displayed it in his home for many years. At the center of either side of each piece is a symbol used in Freemasonry, a six-pointed star, surrounded by rays.

An intriguing discovery during the cataloging process suggested that this set may possess a notable lineage, likely hailing from the era of glass manufacturing referred to by collectors as the American Brilliant Period. Glass formulas of this era, which lasted from about 1876 to 1917, typically included manganese as a clarifying agent. This element causes them to luminesce a light green shade under black light. We couldn't resist trying this test, and were rewarded with the mesmerizing results you see below. Combined with what we know about who owned them, we believe it is likely that these table wares were a product of this fascinating time.

In the late 1800s several factors converged to change the glass industry: large deposits of high-grade silica were discovered in the US, and around the same time, electric-powered machinery and assembly-line methods were ramping up production in American factories and allowing manufacturers to turn out increasingly sophisticated goods. Along with all this, surging prosperity led to a growing consumer demand for fancy table wares. Cutting shops multiplied, and American companies' designs soon garnered awards and fame at the 1889 Paris Exposition and 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. 

2019_044a-bDI5Glowing green under a black light.

The cut glass pieces of this period are characterized by intricate patterns and the ability to catch and reflect light particularly well. They were made of a type of glass with a high proportion of lead oxide. This ingredient effectively softened the glass, enabling it to be cut without shattering. Their manufacturing process started with the creation of thick “blanks” in the shape of the desired form. After being marked with a design, they underwent several stages of cutting and polishing on wheels of metal, wood, and stone. You can read more about the process, and see examples from this period—which ended abruptly when lead was needed for military purposes in World War I—at this website. Curious parties can delve into further examples of American cut glass here

The manufacturer of our creamer and sugar bowl is not known. Many glass makers did not mark their products, or used paper labels which wore off over time. Cut glass from the late 1800s and early 1900s was comparatively durable and was popular in its day. These two qualities have contributed to the survival of cut glass objects in family collections. If you have any cut glass objects decorated with Masonic symbols, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. 

References:

John C. Roesel. "American Brilliant Cut Glass, 1876-1917." American Cut Glass Association website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://cutglass.org/AboutCutGlass.htm

"Black Light Testing." The House of Brilliant Glass website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://www.brilliantglass.com/black-light-testing/


Knights of Labor

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Bread platter, 1876. Bakewell, Pears, & Co., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 96.053. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 1869, Uriah S. Stephens (1821-1869), founded the Knights of Labor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The organization, first named the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, replaced the unsuccessful Garment Cutters Union of Philadelphia. Historians recognize it as one of the largest labor organizations in America in the 1880s. In the beginning, the group chose members very selectively. At the time, the Order was sometimes called the “secret society of tailors.”

The Order was both a fraternal order and a labor union created to protect its members. The Order supported an eight-hour day, abolition of child labor, equal pay for equal work, and political reforms including the graduated income tax. The group was one of the first unions to advocate for all emerging industrial working class, such as women, some immigrant groups, and African Americans.

The Knights of Labor enjoyed immense popularity in the 1880s and reached 700,000 members by 1886. After some unsuccessful unionizing campaigns, deadly labor union rallies, and government efforts to impede labor organizing, members lost faith in the effectiveness of the Order as a labor union. Membership decreased by the late 1890s. The American Federation of Labor largely replaced the group by the early 1900s.

 This pressed glass bread platter in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection commemorates the Knights of Labor during the height of their popularity. The platter, probably manufactured by the Bakewell, Pears, & Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1876, features symbols of industry and agriculture―a farmer with a sickle and sheaf of wheat, train and engine, horse, and ocean steam vessel. At center is a man with a hammer shaking hands with a knight, and the phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

Bread platters like this one were an extremely popular form of tableware in the Victorian era. Glass manufacturers produced platters that commemorated or memorialized political figures, organizations, or events. 

Do you have any objects related to the Knights of Labor? Tell us about them in the comments section below. 

 

 


Happy 201st Birthday to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction!

2013_030DI1Today, August 5, 2014, marks the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975). A year ago today, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the fraternity’s 200th anniversary – see our posts from last year - here and here. This year, the day is passing more quietly. However, our exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” which opened last year, is still on view – for a few more weeks. The exhibition will close on September 27, 2014, so if you haven’t visited, it’s time to plan a trip to the museum. We have one more gallery talk planned in the exhibit. The Museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, Aimee E. Newell, will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

During the official anniversary ceremony last August, in New York City, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale. At the festivities, Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter that officially created the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Commander Seale also presented a commemorative glass vase to celebrate the occasion (see above). The vase is currently on view in our lobby as part of our display of recent acquisitions. Engraved on the front is the double-headed eagle emblem of the Scottish Rite with an inscription, “Presented to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, in honor of its Bicentennial Anniversary 1813-2013 by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.”

To order a copy of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's recent published history, which the exhibition is based on, visit the NMJ online store.

Vase, 2013, United States, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2013.030. Photograph by David Bohl.


How Much Moxie Do You Have?

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The idea of “Throw-back Thursday” seems to be gaining popularity on the internet, especially on sites like Facebook (if you haven’t, please like the Museum on Facebook!) where users post old photographs of themselves and their friends each week.  While our blog comes out on Tuesday, not Thursday, we do like to think that every day is “Throw-back Thursday” at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, since we are devoted to studying and preserving history.  In light of this theme, this post features two bottles from a small collection of Moxie bottles that we received as a gift in 2001.  The “throw-back” part also comes from the fact that we hosted an exhibition in 1993 called “When America Had a Lot of Moxie: A History of America’s First Mass-Marketed Soft Drink.”  Moxie pre-dates Coca-Cola, which was first available in 1886.

Dr. Augustin Thompson (1825-1903) of Lowell, Massachusetts, developed Moxie.  Thompson was born in Maine and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the war, he studied medicine at Hahnemann Homeopathic College in Philadelphia.  Around 1867, Thompson moved to Lowell to open a medical practice.  Soon after, he began developing a recipe for what became known as “Moxie Nerve Food.” 

The bottle at left dates to the 1880s or 1890s when the drink was still marketed as “Moxie Nerve Food.”  Thompson began selling his remedy in 1884 or 1885.  When he applied for a patent in 1885, he explained that it was “a liquid preparation charged with soda for the cure of paralysis, softening of the brain, and mental imbecility.”  The drink caught on in New England and sold widely.  In 1886, one of Thompson’s sons, Francis E., and Freeman N. Young, constructed the first Moxie Bottle Wagon – a horse-drawn four-wheel cart with a replica of a Moxie bottle on the back (see some pictures here).  Many variations were subsequently made and the bottle wagon became one of Moxie’s chief advertising gimmicks. 2001_051_2DP1DB

Moxie continues to be sold up to the present day – see the bottle from 1963 at right, which was bottled in Needham Heights, Massachusetts, in a bottle from the Glenshaw Glass Company in Pennsylvania.  However, it has been many decades since the company was able to claim that it cured any medical conditions.  Today, it is considered a great-tasting, refreshing beverage by its fans, although they also acknowledge that it is an acquired taste.  Are you a fan?  Do you collect Moxie memorabilia?  Tell us about it in a comment below.

References:

Q. David Bowers, The Moxie Encyclopedia: Volume 1 – The History (Wolfesboro, NH: The Vestal Press, 1985).

Frank N. Potter, The Book of Moxie (Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1987).

Top: Moxie Nerve Food Bottle, 1880-1900, unidentified maker, United States.  Gift of Peter G. Huntsman, 2001.051.4.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Moxie Bottle, 1963, Glenshaw Glass Company, Glenshaw, PA.  Gift of Peter G. Huntsman, 2001.051.2.  Photograph by David Bohl.


An Example of Tiffany's Favrile Glass

77_70_10S1 Although this bowl may not be as recognizable as the famed stained-glass Tiffany lamps or windows, it does bear Louis Comfort Tiffany’s (1848-1933) name on the bottom. The soft colors and elegant style of the bowl made it a natural for inclusion in the “beauty and craftsmanship” section of the National Heritage Museum’s current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.

The ruffle-edge rim gives the piece a natural feel, which was one of the hallmarks of Tiffany’s work with glass vessels. In the early 1890s, Tiffany developed a method of blending different colors together in a molten state. He initially used this technique when crafting his stained-glass windows, extending it to three-dimensional objects in 1893. Initially, Tiffany christened this glass “fabrile,” from an Old English word meaning “hand-wrought.” By 1894, he changed it slightly to “Favrile” and the name stuck. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is fortunate to have 27 Favrile pieces from Tiffany’s personal collection.

Do you have a favorite Tiffany piece? Let us know in a comment below.

Favrile Bowl, 1909, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), Corona, New York, National Heritage Museum, gift of Dorothy A. Richardson, 77.70.10.